Monday, February 14, 2011

State Your Name, State

Ever since the 1970s, the picture of political fault lines in Canada has been rather simple - the borders of Quebec. It's the only province that's actually attempted to separate from Canada, and future histories often include an independent Quebec and multiple Canadian provinces joining the United States as a result. It seems to me that it's commonly American authors that project this - as if Quebec is the glue that holds Canada together. As a Canadian, I can say that's not so. Personally I would prefer to see Quebec remain an integral part of Canada, but an independent Quebec would not lead to Canada's collapse. I tend to agree with Will Ferguson's ideas on this in Why I Hate Canadians - that "separation would bring the regions of Canada closer together, like a trauma survivors' support group."

But it's an interesting thing to speculate about, nonetheless - the hows and whys and whethers of Canada coming apart at the seams, and what's left when the dust clears. It's something that's been rattling around in my brain ever since I moved out west. While I consider the idea of Ontario seceding from Canada faintly ridiculous - I'd find it far more believable for provinces to secede piecemeal until Ontario is the last one standing, to get away from Ontario if nothing else - I'm not the first one to consider the possibility of the western provinces going their own way. Hell, there have been political parties dedicated to the concept.

The only question I have is this - what the hell would you call the result?

It's an important question - they'd have to replace the marker at the Blaine/Surrey crossing, you know. It says "Canada" on the other side.

Quebec has it easy - they wouldn't have needed any time to pick out a name upon gaining independence; just "Republique du Quebec" would have worked out perfectly. Indeed, if individual provinces separate, there's no real need to select a new country name. The problem arises in the event of multiple provinces separating and making a go of it themselves as a new unified state, when there's no unified term that already describes them.

Take British Columbia. On its own, it might not have the best shot at independent statehood... but if things have got so bad in Ottawa that BC is voting to lower the Maple Leaf, Alberta is likely several steps ahead. It's not a massive leap to suggest that in this hypothetical future, Alberta and British Columbia choose to go it alone together - thus introducing the issue of a unified name. So far as I am aware, at least, there's no existing geographical or political term that describes BC and Alberta alone.

The Transhuman Space setting did this as part of its background, breaking up Canada into its constituent parts. The union of Alberta and British Columbia was called... the Union of Alberta and British Columbia. This is what you get when there's no existing terms to apply - uninspired names. Plus, what the hell would a citizen of that country call themselves? An Albertan and British Columbian? An ABCer? A Unionist? It would be so much easier if Washington and Oregon could be brought in - then the resulting state could use Cascadia, simple and clear, but the US government would likely have words about that particular arrangement.

So what else is there? Something like Pacifica, which does not really sound like a state name that could be taken seriously - and besides, it doesn't describe the Alberta half of the new state at all. Perhaps the Republic of the Rocky Mountains would work better - there's shared geography right there - but again, what do you call its citizens? Rocks? Rockies? Mountaineers?

It might be easier, in the end, to echo the naming conventions of the Civil War, where no one stopped being American just because of national borders. "Canada" is a geographical expression as much as it is a nation - a western state could easily call itself something like, say, the Allied Provinces of Canada.

Personally, I hope this is something I never have to worry about. But it's interesting to consider.

1 comment:

  1. Great post!
    Our efforts should be towards keeping Canada a united political entity. We really have created a union of wildly different cultures. Our best hope is to keep them working together as a opportunity for the future. I see no other countries/nations trying to do this. Balkanizing the world into small tribes based on ethnic/religious groups is a step backwards. We need to move forward as a united species to colonize beyond our planet.
    The alternative is a slow and painful descent into extinction.